You Should Watch This Because it is Beautiful.

November 4, 2010

I came across this video a couple days ago, and thought it was super cool and appropriate to share. This is the official description of the video:

“Words have the power to shape the way we think and feel. In this stunning video, filmmakers Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante bandy visual wordplay into a moving exploration of how language connects our inner thoughts to the outside world.”

I thought this was an interesting interpretation of the concept of “poetry.” There are no actual words, only representations of them. Even in that, it’s not as if there is a storyline, or really something that the order of these concepts and words are trying to prove. Instead the meaning lies in the connection of the videos through the word they have in common.

There are actually two versions of this video. In the original one, the film and scenes were staged for the purpose of the film. In the second version, the directors recreated the video with found Youtube clips. I saw the Youtube one before the original, and I liked the Youtube version more. It seemed more powerful to me that they were using actual videos people had uploaded to the internet. The fact that they could find things that fit, especially the more mundane scenes, was really cool to me.

Original version:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/j0HfwkArpvU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Youtube remix:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/VTNO87hDGQM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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new sequence–Clifton and the Bible

November 3, 2010

I have posted a scanned copy of Clifton’s “island mary” sequence, of which I have spoken in class, on our Readings page.  I included one unnamed poem that immediately precedes the sequence because, as I looked at it this time, I feel like it is in conversation with the following poems.  fyi, Clifton also has a longish sequence called “some jesus” that includes poems on Biblical characters from Adam and Eve through Joseph (this latter is one of my favorites in it), as well as on events of Jesus’ life. It includes a BSE dialect at times or connects the events to African American experience.  Let me know if you’d like to see this also.

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Clifton: Questions of Sequence

November 3, 2010

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design
I’ve been looking at the Clifton sequences and the questions of sequencing and resequencing.  This goes back, I think to our discussions of the Plath resequencing and how it changed the tone of the volume.  Clifton’s “Blessing the Boats” feels like a volume that could easily lend itself to resequencing, without taking from the meanings.  In fact, I think that some rearranging might lead to a greater understanding. 

In it’s current form, poems are grouped according to surface topic, i.e.: dreams, leda, superman, fox, lucifer, etc, with each giving a different voice or treatment of the topic.  But I’ve noticed that there are recurring treatments of topics, voices and imagery that might be used as an alternative topic in sequences.  What, for instance, happens when we put: “quilting” (59), “eve thinking” (79), and “the message of thelma sayles” (50) together, and/or “a dream of foxes” (115) and “my dream about second coming” (45), in conversation with one another?  Do you think that this regrouping significantly changes meaning and understanding.  Does it take from or add to the meaning for you?

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Guernica

November 3, 2010

While perusing the internet in the name of homework this week, I came across this awesome sight. It’s a literary journal, but one of it’s most interesting facets are its interviews. You can find Nobel prize winners, Pulitzer prize winners, artists, politicians, and of course writers.

A list of names you might find interesting to listen up on:

Alice Walker
Ted Kooser
Judith Butler
Noam Chomsky
Mia Farrow
John Ashbery
Ursula K. Le Guin

And so many more!

Hope ya’ll enjoy it.

http://www.guernicamag.com/

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Microsoft Word to Your Mother

November 2, 2010

I came across this little poem while on my long and dangerous journey aboard the procrastination train. After our technology “discussion” (confusion) this afternoon, I dedicate this to Chelsie and Debbie.

Microsoft Word to Your Mother.

BY CHLOË FILSON

Page Setup a little bookshelf beside the crib and sighed contentedly.

Insert Table and chair into newly built tree house.

Project Gallery opens to reveal chilled food, and can make ice too.

View Markup all over the hall floor. “Wipe your boots when you come in!”

Borders and Shading began to appear under her eyes.

New Comment, of course. Always with the sarcasm these days!

Track Changes with floral-print photo albums and yearbooks.

Save As her contribution to the propagation of the species.

Accept Changes (or, alternatively, disown).

From: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/lists/28filson.html (but beware-this site is like the “white lady” for some. It’s never just one more click.)

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New Formalism Multimedia

November 2, 2010

New Formalism Wiki

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Clifton and Paradise Lost…ready, go!

November 2, 2010

I write a lot about the Bible, because I think of the Lucifer connection, and I was raised a good Baptist. People say that I am a religious person, and I’ve had people argue with me about it, and I think I’m a spiritual person. I don’t think I’m particularly religious, though I am interested in belief systems, and always have been. But I have some poems about Lucifer. And people say, “Oh, you’re writing about the devil.” No, I’m not. I’m writing about Lucifer who was, according to the Bible, the most beautiful star in the heavens, who was close to God, and who had a job to do and did it, it seems to me. My Lucifer and Milton’s Lucifer are not quite the same person. But I do believe that if what we say is so, about the All Powerful, then Lucifer must have also had a job to do, and did it. “Lucifer speaks in his own voice.”
(http://www.gracecavalieri.com/significantPoets/lucilleClifton.html)

I’ve said that I know there’s Lucifer in Lucille, because I know me—I can be so petty, it’s amazing! And there is therefore a possibility of Lucille in Lucifer. Lucifer was doing what he was supposed to do, too, you know? It’s too easy to see Lucifer as all bad. Suppose he were merely being human. That’s why the Bible people—it’s too easy to think of them all as mythological, saintly folk. It is much more interesting to me that these were humans—caught up in a divine plan, but human. That seems to me the miracle.
(http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/article.html?id=179624)

-“Lucifer six finger” immediately turns Lucifer into Lucille, who almost shares his name anyway. Milton uses Satan to express his own doubts and ideas throughout Paradise Lost. (And he aligned himself with Jesus in Paradise Regained…yeah, he liked to be the hero.) Lucifer also breaks from the “littlest finger” of God…
-“Eve’s version” is Paradise Lost exactly. In PL, Satan whispers a dream to Eve about the apple, and here too “smooth talker/slides into my dreams/and fills them with apple.” Clifton has Satan try to convince Eve that she really lusts after her own self. In PL Eve is, right after being created, almost in love with her own reflection, finding herself much more beautiful than Adam when she meets him.
-Clifton’s Lucifer swoops down to Eden because he thinks Eve’s hot (Milton’s Satan is momentarily mesmerized by Eve’s beauty, but snaps out of it – he’s just come to steal more of God’s creations for his anti-Heaven team)…and even has sex with her? “phallus and father/doing holy work/oh sweet delight/oh eden/if the angels/hear of this/there will be no peace/in heaven.” Satan gets it on with Eve in the Zohar (and I guess in other holy texts) but not in the Bible, and in any sacred work it’s…not so much a happy event, but Lucille treats Satan as the one who “illuminates” Adam and Eve. (We don’t get any baby giants, though.)
-“it was/to be/i who was called son.” Milton does this, makes Satan wildly jealous of Jesus, and that’s what causes him to fall.

Safe to say there’s a lot of Paradise Lost in these few Lucifer poems, and I think Clifton’s Lucifer is Milton’s Satan. She just sides with him much more willingly/openly… Milton is more openly pro-Fall in Areopagitica.

In something non-Miltonic…
I love the thought: “this creation is so fierce/i would rather have been born.”

Sheesh, three of my lit classes are all over Milton right now, and I’m in the Milton seminar… Does anyone else ever feel like they’re double-majoring in religion?

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White Lady

November 2, 2010

Clifton’s poem “White Lady” contains only one punctuation mark, a period at the end of the first stanza. The rest of the poem contains no lines that are end stopped. As a reader I feel the poem is not simply about drug use, but rather about ownership and control. In a way the lack of punctuation and capitalization functions not only as a hallmark of some of Clifton’s writing, but also as the embodiment of the lack of control that the speaker of the poem feels. This lack of control is particularly evident in the second stanza where the white lady speaks. Clifton writes,

whispers

let me be your lover

whispers

run me through your

fingers

feel me smell me taste me

This second stanza is the only place in the poem where the author utilizes imperative sentences, yet the author is quoting the white lady. The lack of punctuation only highlights the intensity of the demands, the words seem to trip over one another, especially in the last line that is quoted. Those three sentences bleed into each other, reflecting the constant need of the white lady. The rest of the poem is comprised of either declarative sentences or interrogative ones. The declarative sentences function on a passive level, but when the narrator shifts to asking, “white lady/what do we have to pay/ to repossess our children”(29-31) the narrator surrenders control to the white lady. The white lady is then given the chance to issue more demands.

Yet in the final lines of the poem, the narrator seems to surrender to the idea of possession and ownership. It is as though if the white lady does not own the children of the poem then someone else will, in the last line the wordplay between “own” the verb and “own” the noun reflects the narrators feeling that ownership will be cyclical.

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Foxes and Song of Solomon

October 31, 2010

When I was reading the Fox sequence, certain pieces reminded me very much of passages in the Song of Solomon in the Bible.  In ‘fox,’ Clifton writes, “Master Of The Hunt, why am i / not feeding, not being fed?”.  In Song of Solomon (SOS?) the woman says to the king, “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?” (SOS 1:7)–asking that he tend to her himself and replenish her.  In “leaving fox” the speaker isolates herself from the fox, locking the door.  This resonates with the end of SOS 2, where the woman also isolates herself from her lover who wants her to come with him, but she replies, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes…Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether” (15 & 17)–in SOS the woman does not want to deal with the foxes (symbolic for any small obstacle that they might face) and sends her lover off by himself, waiting for him to return.  It also resonates with chapter five of SOS when he wants to come in to her house, but she’s tired and does not want to get out of bed to open the door for him…he puts his hand over the lock of the door (SOS5:4).  The verses following these scenes show her seeking “him whom her soul loveth” and unable to find him, while Clifton’s next poem, “one year later,” is her imagining what it would have been like and how good it could have been had she “reared up baying, / and followed her off into vixen country”.  Following, in “a dream of foxes” Clifton references “a procession of women / clean as good children,” which falls closely in line with the Daughters of Jerusalem as well as the transformed woman in SOS.

When I read this sequence, I feel like the fox is the individual inside that must be neglected for society, maternity, etc., as well as poetic inspiration.  The speaker wants to fall in love with it but cannot, or will not, allow complete abandonment for it, so she settles for the dreams of what it would have been like.  This connection to SOS shows the connection of the speaker to herself, and poetry, as a love story–but one that she does not see as realistic or possible.  The relation to the Bible makes it a divine relationship, but also an imaginary or out of reach one–beautiful, wild supernatural that cannot fit with this world.

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I’m related to the Gwendolyn

October 29, 2010

All of you failed to notice that Gwendolyn Brooks married Henry Blakely II. I’m very surprised nobody caught this noteworthy connection. I was sure someone would recognize it, which is why I switched the 5th and 6th letters of my last name to protect my identity. . .

Not buyin’ it? Dammit, okay. But wouldn’t it be awesome?

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The Power of Clifton

October 29, 2010

Please watch this video of Chris Abani at TEDTalks all the way through if you have time; it’s very beautiful.   Clifton’s poetry comes in at the end.

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Lucille Clifton’s [Lack of] Punctuation

October 28, 2010

I never thought that a general lack of punctuation would make the grammar-fueled part of my brain crave it this much.

Lucille Clifton’s miserly use of punctuation throughout Blessing the Boats becomes much more meaningful to the audience, not just as devices to make the poems “correct,” but to allow or dispel ambiguity.  Her use of line breaks, indentation, and a straight-forward, story-telling tone allows for plenty of ambiguity in phrases that crave punctuation. The meaning of a line can be completely reconstructed by the assumption of her implied commas or periods. Poems like “Lumpectomy Eve” showcase this ambiguous lack of formal punctuation; but, it could be argued that Clifton replaces this formal punctuation with atypical spacing, line breaks, and indentation. The delicate possible interpretations of the third and fourth stanzas of “Lumpectomy Eve” would be ruined by traditional spacing and commas. (I would reproduce the lines here, but I don’t think I could do accurate justice to their format.)

Was anyone else shocked by the impact of Clifton’s punctuation-light poems?

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Ginsberg’s “America”

October 28, 2010

A friend of mine from high school is a film major at UMBC and he just shared with me the latest video he made for his Topics in Filmmaking class.  He crafted his own multi-media artistic interpretation of Allen Ginsberg’s “America,” using text, news clips, and music to convey his perspective on the poem.  I thought it was a pretty neat video – check it out!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://vimeo.com/16269047" width="400" height="300" wmode="transparent" /]

(If the embedded version continues to not work, here is the URL: http://www.vimeo.com/16269047)

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Questions about The Moon and the Yew Tree

October 28, 2010

So I’ve been reading Plath’s poem, The Moon and the Yew Tree, and I wanted to do a short analysis of it. Problem is, the poem’s downright tricky, and I have many many many more questions than I have analytical thoughts about it. But I’ll give it a shot anyway. The first thing I did was look up pictures of yew trees on Google images. Surprisingly, nearly half of the first fifteen-to-twenty pictures of yew trees were photos of them in graveyards. This seemed odd; I mean, are graveyards their natural habitat or something?

This prompted some quick Wikipedia research, where I found out in fact they are very commonly found in graveyards and near churches, and that in some ancient traditions, they represent life transcending death. I just picture Plath hanging out around this old church and graveyard at  night, looking up at the yew tree and further to the moon. creepy.

Anyway, so right off the bat it seems there’s a distinct separation made between “the light of the mind” and the “black trees of  the mind.” Plath says “this” (it’s the very first word of the poem), and I think the light she is referring to is the moonlight. But what are we to make of the “blackness and light?” I thought that maybe the “blackness/black” trees might signify the unconscious or unknown part of our minds, whereas the light might signify our conscious minds. But when I get later in the poem, I’m not so sure.

What is clear in the poem, is that there are several religious references made. In the first stanza Plath says “The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God.” So here, Plath compares the grass–almost in a Whitman-esque sense–to people, and that she is God. Maybe she was thinking about the dead who lie underneath the grass and their “griefs” when she said this. In the last line of the first stanza, Plath says that she doesn’t think there is anywhere to get to; maybe this is a reference to the yew tree being a passageway for the souls to transcend to heaven. This would also make sense then with the first line of the next stanza “The moon is no door,” in that Plath is perhaps looking at the yew tree as a sort of passageway, and then she looks higher to the destination of the moon.

The lines in the next stanza about religion concern Christianity and the specific church in the scene. Plath writes “Twice, on a Sunday, the bells startle the sky/–eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection./At the end they soberly bong out their names.” At first, I thought the tongues might be some kind of religious prophets or disciples, probably because of the “names” at the end of the third line; but when i read it again, i changed my mind and i think the tongues are the bells. I really don’t know what to make of the bells having names though, so if anyone has any ideas about that feel free to share.

In the next stanza, the speaker (presumably Plath) is associating her mother with the moon, in addition to the moon being compared to a face. However, the mother “is not like Mary.” I took this to be a comparison to one of  the important Mary’s of Christianity, Mary the mother of Jesus.  Also there is a constant contrast between the colors black and blue in the poem, and the moon and moonlight is consistently associated with blue. The yew tree is mentioned again, and it is associated with the word “gothic.” I decided to see if there were any alternative definitions to the word by looking it up–turns out “gothic” can mean many different things; but regardless of which one of these meanings one chooses, it seems the tree is separated from religion. Later in the Stanza the moonlight shines into the church windows, and either the saints are blue apparitions floating around, or they are the projections of the stain glass windows from the blue light. Again, they are separate from the yew trees, because “the message of the yew trees is blackness–blackness and silence.” SO…

I don’t really know where to go from here. I think there is a portrayal of the yew tree (which was supposed to represent life transcending death) as a silent black entity that perhaps doesn’t fulfill its supposed role as a passageway to heaven. But what about the blue moon? It seems that Plath is both connecting the blue moonlight to the saints (when she describes them as “blue”), but also distancing the moon from the saints when she says “the moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.” We have the moon being personified as a face, and also the stars as having a “face” too. So, maybe she believes the natural world is associated more with humanity than religion? After all the Christian bells “startle the sky.” Yet, they seem to fail “at the end” of their bonging by only saying that they are bells and this is the sound of bells, not of the transcendence of Christianity and the resurrection of the souls. There seems to be this interconnectedness between the landscape, the natural world, and Religion, but yet the moon doesn’t see the rigidness of Christianity because she is wild, and the message of the trees is blackness–that they aren’t this passageway or a transceding image.

Of course,  I keep forgetting that one reading of this could be that this is all an image in Plath’s mind. And in one sense, it is only an image in Plath’s mind.  I think that perhaps what she sees in this landscape reveals to her how she feels inwardly, if that makes any sense. I hesitate to say that Plath has a negative view of religion in this poem, because I don’t think that’s entirely true. But the last image–of the yew trees sending us the message of blackness and silence–suggests that in her mind, religion (or at least Christianty) doesn’t form a spiritual connection to the natural world and perhaps not to Plath’s own inner world either. Does anyone else have any thoughts on the poem?

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New York Poets Multimedia!

October 27, 2010

New York Poets

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Back to Why Poetry Matters

October 27, 2010

A quote from the Selected Writings of Paul Valéry:

Thought is hidden in verse like the nutritive virtue in fruit.  A fruit is nourishment but it seems to be nothing but pure delight.  One perceives only pleasure but one receives a substance.  Enchantment veils this imperceptible nourishment it brings with it.

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Be a little Jealous

October 27, 2010

So, I started reading Clifton last night, and as I was flipping through my book and lo-and-behold I find that my copy, which I bought used at the bookstore, is a signed copy! Yey, me!

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Drafts of Ariel is Plath’s handwriting

October 26, 2010

Photobucket

Links to the rest:

Ariel1
Ariel2
Ariel3

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Plath and religion

October 26, 2010

Someone asked if the tree in The Arrival of the Bee Box is the Tree of Knowledge. I think it definitely is – Plath wants to (or feels that she should) rid herself of her demons, of the depression that is also her inspiration, and become something detached and pure and good (and boring)…that stand-alone tree. In Edge I think she paints herself as the Tree as well, “perfected” and “dead,” with Adam and Eve (or her two children) sucking the knowledge and life out of her (One at each little/Pitcher of milk, now empty). While “the scrolls of her toga” makes her also sound like a statue, it could also be like the pattern of the bark, and “scrolls” could be emphasizing the knowledge of the Tree again. Anyway–

Plath loved to compare herself to the rising Christ, the rising Lazarus (and I felt like she became Lilith at the end of that poem–anyone else?) maybe to the Tree of Knowledge…because she wanted that perfection, because she felt so dirty and frustrated all the time and just wants to be wiped clean, completely clean. But that kind of perfection is essentially…well, it’s nonexistence. And that’s what’s so sad about it.

I also love love love the end of Fever 103. It kind of blew me away. It IS just a little breath at the end, “to Paradise,” but that’s all Plath wanted was a breath, just a really basic relief from her head, and she really got that feeling across there.

There are some Plath poems I didn’t like at all (and felt kind of wrong reading them, like I was peering a liiittle too far into her poor scrambled head), but then I think others are incredible…maybe depending on how depressed she was when she was writing each of them? The control and sanity of the poems definitely vary. Anyone else feel this way?

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Question about “Morning Song”

October 21, 2010

I understand the poem is about child birth and her “mother song” being the connection she feels during the intimate relationship she and the baby have while feeding, but I was wondering if anyone could shine some light on the line, “…your nakedness/ shadows our safety.”

Look forward to reading your interpretations. Thanks!

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Winter of Discontent

October 19, 2010

Here is a link to a video by the BBC called “Plath’s Winter of Discontent”.  It’s pretty short, but it highlights the time of Plath’s life that is considered to have been the most fruitful in terms of her writing (as discussed today in class).

Also, not sure if you’ve ever seen the poetry animations on Youtube, but there is one available for Plath’s “Daddy”.  All of the animations kind of creep me out actually, but it’s still pretty cool how they do them.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/1lNTYK2U15c" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The first animation I saw was Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabel Lee” and for some reason it creeps me out more than the Plath one.  Check it out if you’re interested:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/E9NnuS7KIK8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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Close-up of “Cadaver” Lovers

October 19, 2010

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Brueghel’s “The Triumph of Death”

October 19, 2010

 

Though its probably a bit late for this post, just in case anyone hadn’t already looked for the painting, here is Brueghel’s “The Triumph of Death” (1562) from part 2 of “Two Views of a Cadaver Room.”

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Alcove Journal

October 18, 2010

Hey guys–

So Scanlon mentioned in class about how some students in the Literary Journals class have begun advertising for submissions for their journal. Well a few of us in COPO are in that class, and we’d love to receive submissions from ya’ll.

For more information check out our flier.
Alcove_Flyer2

Also, check out our facebook page listed under Alcove Journal.

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Full Fathom Five

October 18, 2010

So, I totally did not understand this poem until I googled the title.  It turns out the phrase comes from the song that Ariel sings in The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell

and ‘fathom five’ means thirty feet under water.

Am I the only one who didn’t know this?

Anyway, this is a fascinating poem.  I love how Plath uses the choppy form to reflect the decaying state of ‘Father’ and what he does to those who see and know him (emotionally and physically).  Specifically, my favorite line is “To make away with the ground-” (31).  I think the half-meaning reveals more of the narrators desire even than the purpose of the old man.

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